Academic journal article The Southern Review

River Baptism

Academic journal article The Southern Review

River Baptism

Article excerpt

Some were on the trampled bank in their Sunday best. Some were boys hiding above in the trees and the rest were in the water. We had slithered through that summer-Kentucky undergrowth so we wouldn't miss out. And had climbed an oak. We'd overheard Granny Potter say the locals would be acting out circus-come-to-town pentecostalism, baptizing (by immersion) in the mine-runoff-polluted North Fork Kentucky River. Converts dropped the Hefty-bagged change of clothes carted across God-rendered fields and thickets. My cousins Roger and Ricky Dellinger were in the tree, too. They pronounced the last name like the gangster John Herbert Dillinger, who broke out of jail in Ohio in 1933 and skedaddled that way: toward the Letcher County line and some outlaw family who were to be his salvation. Roger worshiped Dillinger. Habitually that summer, he pilfered apples pears peaches from IGA while his mother, Myrtle, shopped. … 
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